A respectful approach to dietary research involving children: The importance of communication, acknowledgment and participation

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

Dietitians Association of Australia 33rd National Conference


John Wiley and Sons, Inc

Place of Publication

Melbourne, Victoria


School of Medical and Health Sciences / School of Nursing and Midwifery




O'Sullivan, T., Evelegh, K., Arabiat, D., & Russell, K. (2016). A respectful approach to dietary research involving children: The importance of communication, acknowledgement and participation. Poster session presented at the Dietitians Association of Australia 33rd National Conference, Melbourne, Australia.

Available here.


Ideally, participating in dietary trials should be an enjoyable experience for children. However, some assessments, such as blood sampling, can be unpleasant and stressful. We aimed to investigate whether principles from child care specialist Magda Gerber’s Resources for Infant Educators would be relevant to nutrition-related assessments, and apply them in practical examples. Three relevant principles were identified from the literature: (1) use of authentic communication, (2) acknowledging emotions, and (3) inviting participation. These principles can be applied by researchers to a variety of nutrition-related assessments. The blood sampling scenario can be used as an example. Authentic and honest communication about why the sample is needed, and what to expect, is important to empower the child with knowledge. Withholding information can result in mistrust, so it is important to say the procedure is likely to hurt, but it won’t hurt for long. Giving advanced notification recognises the child’s need for time to process the procedure. Use of a calm, slow voice, rather than a ‘baby’ voice, is beneficial. Asking the child how they feel about having blood taken can encourage expression of emotions. The researcher can acknowledge their feelings are valid, and let them know that it is okay if they feel like crying. Children can participate by conducting a sample on a teddy bear or doll initially (using a fake syringe), and choosing which arm they would like their sample taken from. Following these principles can help treat children with respect and improve their research experience.



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